A proposal to ban hunting from most or all of the road sides in Beaufort County drew a crowd of some 120 people — but only a dozen speakers — to the Beaufort County Courthouse Monday night.
A sea of orange-colored caps favored by hunters filled most of the Superior Courtroom Monday but speakers at a public hearing were evenly divided on the issue.
Supporters of road-side hunting told the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners at a public hearing on Monday that road-side hunting is a time-honored tradition in the county that should be preserved.
But those who favored a ban said that road-side hunting is a dangerous practice that should end.
A committee of the commissioners in August proposed two ordinances limiting road-side hunting that were the subject of the public hearing.
One proposal would ban road-side hunting from the right-of-way of all public roads in the county. A second proposal would exempt most roads in Richlands Township in southeastern Beaufort County from a ban that would apply to all other public roads in the county.
Board Chairman Jerry Langley said the commissioners would refer the issue back to the Animal Control Committee, which, at some future date, could bring it to the board for a vote. And, he said, the public will be made aware of any pending vote before it occurs.
“Before we make a decision, you will know about it,” he said.
Ed Duclos, a resident of southeastern Beaufort County whose subdivision is adjacent to a county gameland, was one of six speakers who favored a ban on road-side hunting saying the practice poses a danger to local residents and, particularly those hunters from out-of-state, are a nuisance.
“I’m in the line of fire,” Duclos said. “And quite frankly, I’m fed up with it.”
Walter Lindstrand, also from the southeastern part of the county, said the current practice of unlimited road-side hunting “is a recipe for disaster. Beaufort County residents live on and travel on the same roads as hunters sitting on their cars with high-powered rifles.”
“What percentage of unruly, uncaring hunters does it take to warrant a change,” he said.
Others said road-side hunters have harassed nearby residents, leave their hunting dogs in the field to starve, leave litter along the side of the road and leave carcasses of dead deers lying in ditches on their property. They said the ordinance would eliminate these problems.
Six speakers, however, said road-side hunting benefits the local economy and that hunters can work with local law enforcement to eliminate any bad-actors.
“This is not just a tradition,” said Vickie Jones of Edward.
She noted that road-side hunters who come to Beaufort County contribute to the economy and are a valuable resource. The proposals, she said are “an economy buster.”
Jerry Sawyer, of Pantego, said most of the problems associated with road side hunting are caused by “a few bad apples that seem to give us all a black eye.”
“Give us an opportunity to police ourselves,” he said.
Other speakers characterized the debate as between life-long Beaufort County residents and new-comers to the area who want to change the traditional Southern way of life.
“We have always hunted,” said Wayland Steve Woolard of Washington. “We didn’t move up there. They moved down here.”
Meanwhile, some speakers criticized Commissioner Robert Cayton of Edward for bringing forward a proposal that would exempt hunters in his neighborhood and surrounding area from a ban that would apply to most areas of the county.